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touch. It is violated unless done by a true son of the soil, one to the manner born, such an artist as Elton Britt, or Texas Jim Robertson, or Boyd Heath. Moreover, the singer should be backed by the traditional accompaniment and not by the symphonized setup of a popular radio band. To streamline such a number is, says Miller, to break faith with his clientele.
Although he works in New York, Bob is no urbanite. His heart is in the timber. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he heard the old ballads as a babe and got a feeling for them. At eleven, he was writing four-line epitaphs for a Memphis undertaker at a dollar a throw. The tragic muse comes naturally to Bob. After studying serious music at two conservatories with the intention of becoming a con­cert pianist, he decided that such was not for him. Too many tunes were running through his head to be ignored. To date, he has written words or music for over 7,000 songs, most of which he publishes. He works under twelve pen names.
Bob is quite a figure with his clientele. His fan mail is considerable. Pigs are named for him, and he receives many gifts, mostly in the form of produce and livestock. He is consulted on historical facts and affectionately called "Unk."
In the early days, he served chiefly in the capacity of historian to his votaries, who got their news, when they did, by grapevine and phonograph record. This was the era of the tragic-event song, which came in nineteen or more verses and gave all the lurid details.
Bob also developed into something of a prophet. Follow­ing newspaper technique, Huey Long's obituary was ready two years before his death. Bob figured that the senator was riding for a fall, that he would come to a sudden and violent end sooner or later. He couldn't decide whether Huey would be shot on the capitol steps or inside the build­ing. Hence two song versions.
Bob sang his song to the senator one day in the Hotel New Yorker.
"That's real pretty," he said. "Teach it to me and then come down to Baton Rouge and teach it to the glee club."
Bob thought this was overstepping the proprieties a bit
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III